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why spend money on fertilizer when you can make your own.

Discussion in 'Do It Yourself' started by samiel, Jun 15, 2011.

  1. many organic gardeners keep a bottle of liquid fish fertilizer on hand to feed young seedlings, plants growing in containers, and any garden crop that needs a nutrient boost. But liquid, fish based fertilizers are often pricey, plus we are supporting an unsustainable fishing industry by buying them. So, what's a good alternative?
    Mother Earth News commissioned Will Brinton - who holds a doctorate in Environmental Science and is president of Woods End Laboratories in Mt. Vernon, Maine - to develop some water-based, homemade fertilizer recipes using free, natural ingredients, such as grass clippings, seaweed, chicken manure, and human urine.

    Why and When to use Liquids.
    Liquid fertilizers are faster-acting than seed meals and other solid organic products, so liquids are your best choice for several purposes. As soon as seedlings have used up the nutrients provided by the sprouted seeds, they benefit from small amounts of fertilizer. This is especially true if you're using soil-less seed starting mix (such as a peat-based mix), which helps prevent damping off but provides a scant supply of nutrients. Seedlings don't need much in the way of nutrients, but if they noticeably darken in color after you feed them with the liquid fertilizer, that's evidence they had a need that has been satisfied. Liquid fertilizers are also essential to success with container-grown plants, which depend entirely on their growers for moisture and nutrients. Container-grown plants do best with frequent light feedings of liquid fertilizers, which are immediately distributed throughout the constricted growing area of the containers.
    Out in the garden, liquid fertilizers can be invaluable if you are growing cold-tolerant crops that start growing when soil temperatures are low -- for example, overwintered spinach or strawberries coaxed into early growth beneath row covers. Nitrogen held in the soil is difficult for plants to take up until soil temperatures rise about 50 degrees Fahrenheit or so, meaning plants can experience a slow start because of a temporary nutrient deficit in late winter and early spring. The more you push the spring season by using cloches and row covers to grow early crops of lettuce, broccoli, or cabbage in cold soil, the more it will be worth your time to use liquid fertilizers to provide a boost until the soil warms up.
    Water-soluble home made fertilizers are short-acting but should be applied no more than every two weeks, usually as a thorough soaking. Because they are short-acting liquid fertilizers are easy to regulate compared to longer-acting dry organic fertilizers, though i like using both. With an abundant supply of liquid fertilizer to use as backup, you can use a light hand when mixing solid organic fertilizer into the soil prior to planting.
    Remember: If you mix too much nitrogen-rich fertilizer into the soil, you cant take it back. As soil temperatures rise, more and more nitrogen will be released, and you can end up with monstrous plants that don't produce well. In comparison, you can apply your short-acting liquid fertilizers just when plants need them-- sweet corn in full silk, peppers loaded with green fruits-- with little risk of over doing it. Late in the season, liquid fertilizers are ideal for rejuvenating long living plants, such as chard and tomatoes, which will often make a dramatic comeback if given a couple of drenchings.
    likes this.
  2. Making your own

    To explore the are of making fertilizer tea, Brinton began by trying various ways to mix and steep grass clippings, seaweed, and dried chicken manure (roughly 33% manure mixed with 66% wood shavings). The best procedure he found was to mix materials with water in the ratios shown in the "homemade fertilizer tea recipes" allow the teas to sit for 3 days at room temperature, giving them a good shake or stir once a day.

    "Homemade Fertilizer Tea Recipes"
    Add the amount of dry ingredients as shown below in a 5 gallon bucket, then add water to fill, and steep for 3 days. Strain or decant the tea and dilute as shown below. To make fertilizer tea from urine, simply dilute urine in a 20 part water 1 part urine ratio. water plants with these solutions no more than once every 2 weeks..

    Dried chicken manure with wood shavings: 1/5 bucket of manure/wood, dilute to a 1:1 ratio.
    Seaweed: 1/5th bucket, strain and feed as is.
    Fresh Grass Clippings: 2/3 bucket. 1:1 dilution ratio
    Human Urine: 20:1 ratio

    By the 3rd day, most of the soluble nutrients will have oozed into the water solution. Stopping at 3 days prevents fermentation, which you want to avoid. Fermented materials which smell bad, and their ph can change rapidly, so its important to stick with the 3 day mixtures and then use them within a day or 2. Brinton also studied human urine, which is more concentrated than grass, manure, or seaweed teas, and doesnt need to be steeped.
    The lab analyzed the 4 extracts for nutrient and salt content. Salts are present in most fertilizers, but an excess of salts can damage soil and plants roots. Brinton found that chloride and sodium salts where so high in urine that they needed to be diluted with water at a 20:1 ratio before being used on plants. In comparison, the seaweed extract could be used straight, and the grass clippings and chicken manure only need a 1:1 dilution to become plant worthy.
    As a general guideline, most vegetables use the 3 major plant nutrient-- nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium- in a ratio of roughly 3-1-2: 3 parts nitrogen, 1 part phosphorus, and 2 parts potassium. This means that an N-P-K is more "balanced" in meeting the plants' needs than 1-1-1, the ratio that many gardeners assume is best. Because liquid fertilizers are a short-term, supplemental nutrient suppkly secondary to the riches released by organic matter and microbes, they dont need to be precisely balanced. The teas made from grass clippings and urine come closest to providing the optimum 3-1-2 ratio.
    Nitrogen helps plants grow new stems and leaves. Phosphorus is essential for vigorous rooting, and is usually in good supply in organically enriched soils. Potassium is the "buzz" nutrient that energizes the plants' pumping mechanisms, orchestrating the opening and closing of leave stomata and regulating water distribution among cells. The grass clippings and poultry manure teas are rich in potassium, which should make for sturdy plants with strong stems when used to feed young seedlings. Blending some grass or manure tea with a little nitrogen-rich urine would give you a fertilizer to promote strong growth in established plants. I like to add a few handfuls of stinging nettles, comfrey, lamb's-quarters or other available weeds to various mixtures, which probably helps raise the the micronutrient content of my homemade concoctions in addition to providing plenty of potassium.
    On the practical end of liquid fertilizer making, you may need to use a colander to remove some of the grass clippings before you can pour off the extract. If you haven't completely used a batch of fertilizer within 2-3 days, pour it out beneath perennials or dump it into your composter.

    This article was found in the Mother Earth News magazine feb/march 2011 issue.
  3. Wow...wall of text...I'm just gonna mark this and come back to read it later when my old man eyes aren't so tired...:p
  4. yeah, its a long read i know, i was told AFTER i typed it that i could have just went to the magazine's website and copy and paste it...
  5. i wouldnt be on this site if i wasnt a stoner :p
  6. Hahahahhahahahahahahaha copy paste is a bitch in hindsight good tips good recipe
  7. I make stinging nettle fertilizer its the shiiznik.. so I've heard still in the process of making the first batch lol. but the ingredients are right in many backyards.
  8. lol, I have much respect for people who don't copy and paste. And instead, say things in their own brand of English in a way that people of a certain community (GrassCity) can understand. Even novice pre-growers like myself. Thank you for the tips :).
  9. ture ture cuz i got lost in all that :wave:
  10. I like anything "-for dummies". Great way to start a knowledge base and gain confidence :).

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